Third of sheltered housing wardens fear for jobs

Union leaders fear that up to a third of sheltered housing wardens in Aberdeenshire could lose their jobs as part of a proposed revamp of the service.

Councillors on the housing and social work committee will meet tomorrow to discuss plans to shave about £450,000 a year off a £2.9million annual operating budget.

Unison’s Aberdeenshire branch chairwoman Kate Ramsden said the union estimated that up to 30 members of staff may be cut if the recommendations are approved.

The public-sector union has met council officials to voice fears over the quality of service that will be provided at sheltered housing complexes in the future.

She said: “We have expressed our concern about the potential impact on services for older, more vulnerable people.

“We are also concerned about the increased workload for the staff that remain, and we will be working with the council to minimise the effect on people who live in sheltered housing, as well as our members.

“There are more than 100 at the moment, and we believe about one third of those are likely to be affected. We will be keeping a close eye on it.”

In a report to the committee, director of housing and social work Ritchie Johnson recommends that councillors approve a switch to “mobile” teams of wardens that would cover a group of complexes.

Staff numbers would also be reduced by relieving wardens of common area cleaning duties, which would instead be performed by a private company.

The council held a consultation with sheltered housing tenants in 2009, and found that 60% of people said they would not mind being supported by a mobile team of sheltered housing officers, while 40% worried that they would lose a valued relationships with a warden that they already know.

The survey also found that 68% would not object to an external company performing cleaning duties, although additional consultation meetings last year found that tenants would prefer council cleaning staff, whom they felt provided a better, more reliable service.

The report states that initial job losses would come via “natural turnover and voluntary redundancy”.

Mr Johnson adds: “The council will endeavour to avoid compulsory redundancies. Staff affected by these changes, and trade unions, have been informally consulted on the proposals. If approved, a period of formal consultation would commence.”